By: Addison Wylie
Sneaking in under the radar during this year’s final quarter is an uplifting family film called The Games Maker. For those who take a chance on it, they’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was when Juan Pablo Buscarini’s film pulled me into a wonderful world of old-fashioned strategy.
I say “pleasantly surprised” because the marketing for The Games Maker drives home its whimsy and fantastical elements a little too hard; so much that it actually pushes you away. The trailer doesn’t do the film any favours using swooping graphics and an epic musical score. Essences of Harry Potter and Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning Hugo echo, and we get the feeling the film may lack an original voice or try to bite off more than it can chew.
Although the film’s imagination and entertainment value can be easily compared to those previously mentioned movies, The Games Maker doesn’t feel the need to show off. Buscarini gives movie goers plenty of attractive art direction to look at (including a superb backdrop of a withering town that resembles a theme park during its off-hours), but the excitement exists within Buscarini’s screenplay, which he’s adapting from Pablo De Santis’ novel.
Ivan Drago (played by newcomer David Mazouz) is transfixed with board games, and is astonished when his idea for a new game gains him an advance in a mailed-in contest. With each imaginative game he sends in, he progresses in the competition until he’s given a seemingly throwaway prize.
When Ivan’s parents go missing, he’s told of an estranged grandparent who was an ingenious game maker. But then, Ivan is sent off to a strict boarding school. The building is physically sinking due to it being built on top of a swamp, which makes for a very funny visual gag. Ivan, being a little genius as well, makes it his mission to escape the institution and seek answers.
The Games Maker emulates the thoughtfulness and tense fun that audiences will remember from engraved games of their past. The film stimulates our imagination with evocative architecture along with curious characters and concepts. I especially liked the evil guards whom are tied together to cover 360°. It’s an example of another great joke that pays off. However, the encouraging portrayal of eager intellect and the messages about how one can control their own destiny with skill is what makes The Game Maker a brilliant flick for young audiences and a reassuring one for adults.
Juan Pablo Buscarini’s family fare is better than Hugo and as entertaining as any Harry Potter film, making The Games Maker a must-see for audiences of all ages.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie